Food: Pasta dish proceeds to lift up Italian town

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

Last week’s news of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake in central Italy was delivered to me via radio while I was driving to the dentist. The announcer faltered over the pronunciation of the town that was the epicenter of this horrible occurrence, but I immediately knew she was speaking of Amatrice, known as the birthplace of the famous pasta dish, Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, which happens be an all-time favorite comfort food in my home.

I could only imagine the horror and devastation that was happening a world away. Having visited Rome and Tuscany a few years ago, I could see in my mind’s eye an ancient town full of wonderful people and their homes, beautiful frescoes and churches being destroyed in a manner of seconds. And only a few minutes earlier I was praying that I didn’t have any cavities.

I later learned that Amatrice was set to host its 50th festival of the iconic pasta dish last weekend and so I, too, made plans to make it at home in honor of the Italian town and its people. Then I made a donation to the Italian American Relief Fund.

But I’d no sooner completed my shopping list when a Facebook post by Luciano DelSignore, chef/owner of Bacco Ristorante, called on fellow Metro Detroit chefs to put this dish on their menus for $15 and donating 100 percent of the cost to a fund to help the victims of three municipalities and surrounding areas affected by the devastation. This is certainly a dear cause to DelSignore who is from Sulmona in Abruzzo, Italy and still has family there.

So, during the month of September, you have a reason to go out to dinner and order this amazing meal. I promise that if you’ve never had it before, you will soon find out why this dish is so celebrated. And then, once you’ve enjoyed it and done your part, you can re-create Spaghetti all’Amatriciana at home. And maybe write a check?

Here’s a list of the participating restaurants along with site where you can make a donation. DelSignore’s goal is to raise $50,000, but I think we can do better.

Kate Lawson is a retired Detroit News food writer. You can reach her at

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

This classic sauce takes its spiciness from black pepper and dried chilies and its depth of flavor from guanciale, Italian salt-cured pork jowl. If you can’t find it, use pancetta, which is available at better supermarkets. Bucatini is a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. You can easily substitute spaghetti.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces. thinly sliced guanciale, pancetta, or chopped unsmoked bacon

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand (I prefer San Marzano tomatoes)

Kosher salt

12 ounce. dried bucatini or spaghetti

1/2 cup finely grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale and sauté until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Add pepper flakes and black pepper; stir for 10 seconds. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 2 minutes before al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

Add drained pasta to sauce in skillet and toss vigorously with tongs to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. (Add a little pasta water if sauce is too dry.) Stir in cheese and transfer pasta to warmed bowls. Serves 4.

Per serving: 565 calories; 20 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 32 percent calories from fat); 75 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 29 mg cholesterol; 934 mg sodium; 20 g protein; 7 g fiber.

Where to eat; how to donate

■Bacco Ristorante/all Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina

■The Root

■Cusine/The Stand Bistro

■La Vita Bistro, Pinkney

■all Union Restaurants

■Tre Monte/La Strada


■La Cucina del Vino

■all Andiamo restaurants

■Bella Piatti

■Cucina Medoro


■The Twisted Mitten

■Pops for Italian

■Assaggi Bistro

■Coach Insignia/Novi Chophouse

■Trattoria Stella/The Franklin

■Bucci, Grosse Pointe

These websites will help you make a donation: fundraiser/italy-eq/donate


By check: Make checks payable to “NIAF”

Mail to: NIAF / Italian American Relief

1860 19th Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20009

(Tax receipts issued by the National Italian American Foundation.)

For additional information, contact 202-387-0600 or email